Arlene Torrenga, Co-Facilitator, Delavan
“Volunteering is really rewarding. If you feel you can help someone with one thing, you’ve done a lot.”
Arlene is a Co-Facilitator for an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group that meets monthly. She has been volunteering for over a decade. She enjoys helping people and feels strongly that, “You learn from other caregivers. You are not alone.” The small group setting allows caregivers to discuss challenges and ask for support. “I really enjoy volunteering,” says Arlene. “I have lived with it (Alzheimer’s) and worked with it and feel I can help others.”
Arlene began here experience with support groups when she attended an Alzheimer’s support group.
Her husband Bob developed Alzheimer’s in 1994 at the age of 60 and also had lewy body disease, which affected his movement, behavior and mood. The support group leader she met with was “so amazing and I learned so much.” Bob passed away at the age of 68.
As a Co-Facilitator, Arlene shares simple tips with her support group that she herself found helpful:
- You can’t do it alone and that’s what support groups are for
- Don’t argue with your loved one
- Keep a close eye, as they will roam
- Give loved one dignity by facilitating simple choices they can make
- Add door locks so loved ones don’t walk out
- You have to take care of yourself and consider getting away for a few days to recharge (take advantage of respite care)
“Even if you can give someone one or two ideas, it’s so helpful,” says Arlene.
Living with someone with dementia is a whole new process. Part of the support group is sharing struggles and suggestions. “No one knows how to converse with people with dementia,” says Arlene. “Many caregivers say that people will offer to help, but don’t know what to do or how to talk with people with dementia.”
She explains at her support groups, “Alzheimer’s is like you have a jig saw puzzle of your family picture. When it’s together you can easily see how mom, dad, children and grandparents fit together. But when you have Alzheimer’s, the puzzle is broken into all the pieces. Your loved one may know you are part of the puzzle, but can’t place where you fit.” When her husband Bob moved to the memory care unit, Arlene would meet him for dinner every night. She fondly recalls a time when he stood up when she entered the room and announced that “the queen” had arrived (Bob had a great sense of humor). He may not have always known exactly who she was, but he knew she was important.
Arlene is an active volunteer in the community including at Vintage on the Ponds assisted living and her church community.